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Kamala Harris just showed why Joe Biden chose her as his running mate

“The President’s mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and we’re experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change,” Harris said at the afternoon event in Wilmington, Delaware.

“America is crying out for leadership. Yet we have a President who cares more about himself than the people who elected him,” said Harris, who abandoned her own bid for the White House less than a year ago before a single vote was cast. “As someone who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

It was a first performance that showcased Harris’ political deftness and why she will be a formidable adversary for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence this fall, both in her ability to connect with stories of average Americans struggling through the pandemic and to throw a clean punch without fear of the ramifications.

In her speech, she made a direct contrast between Trump — who recently shrugged off the more than 165,000 American Covid-19 deaths by saying, “It is what it is” — and what she described as Biden’s qualities of “empathy, his compassion, his sense of duty,” adding that she and the former vice president were both “cut from the same cloth.”

She charged that Trump’s failure to take the virus seriously, to get coronavirus testing up and running, to offer a national strategy for ending the pandemic has led to 16 million people without jobs, “a crisis of poverty, of homelessness” that is “afflicting Black, brown, and indigenous people the most” and “more than 165,000 lives cut short, many with loved ones who never got the chance to say goodbye.”

“It didn’t have to be this way,” she said.

Harris also sought to convey an understanding of what average families are dealing with by pointing to the “complete chaos” over when and how to open schools: “Mothers and fathers are confused, uncertain and angry about child care and the safety of their kids at schools — whether they’ll be in danger if they go or fall behind if they don’t.”

She eviscerated Trump’s leadership failures by noting that his family’s wealth had paved his way to power, charging that he had “inherited the longest economic expansion in history” from the Obama administration “and then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”

Over her career in politics — as district attorney of San Francisco, California’s attorney general, the state’s junior senator and now as a presidential candidate — Harris has sometimes struggled to hold the energy of a room or to sustain the cheers that are so important in maintaining a candidate’s momentum.

But in the era of campaigning mid-pandemic, that was not an issue Wednesday in the nearly empty gym, where only socially distant — and silent — reporters and staff served as the audience.

Instead, Harris was able to speak directly to the camera in a setting that seemed almost intimate because there were no cheers, applause or distractions — making her case for why a Democratic win in November might matter in the daily lives of Americans.

She wove aspects of her personal story with Biden’s, noting that she had come to know the former vice president because of her friendship with his son Beau, a former Delaware attorney general who died of brain cancer.

Demonstrating the role she will play in humanizing Biden, she touched on the story of how the elder Biden “rode the rails” between Washington and his home in Delaware for four hours a day after his first wife and his daughter died in a car accident so that he would be able to make breakfast for his sons in the morning and tuck them in at night.

“All of this so two little boys, who’d just lost their mom and sister in a tragic accident, would know the world was still turning,” Harris said. “And that’s how I came to know Joe. He’s someone whose first response, when things get tough, is never to think about himself, but to take care of everybody else.”

Introducing his running mate earlier in the event, Biden explained why he had chosen Harris, the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent on a major party’s presidential ticket.

As the child of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Harris “knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country,” Biden said, adding that “her story is America’s story.”

Previewing arguments that will be important in key swing states as his campaign tries to convince Americans than they are not better off than they were four years ago, he also tried to link Harris’ agenda to his own, noting her efforts to help working families after the foreclosure crisis, when she took on the big banks, and her advocacy for “folks” who are looking for a “fair shot of making it.”

Biden seemed to enjoy drawing attention to Trump’s sexist remarks about Harris, such as when the President repeatedly called her “nasty” shortly after Biden announced her as his running mate, stating that the President was “whining.”

“Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman? And we know that more is to come,” Biden said. He called on “working people” to defend his new partner.

“Kamala Harris has had your back — and now, we have to have her back,” he said. “She’s going to stand with me in this campaign, and all of us are going to stand up for her.”

During an interview with Eric Bolling from “America This Week,” a Sinclair program, Trump said Harris was not “liked” — a gendered criticism that was often used to describe 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“She’s not a person who’s liked. I think people will fall out of love with her very quickly. Very quickly,” Trump told Bolling. “She campaigned, and she campaigned very hard. Whenever people heard her open her mouth, she went down.”

Biden also did not let the historic nature of his pick go unnoticed at their first event together. As Harris looked on, now firmly in the role of a supporting player, Biden imagined the reaction of “little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities.”

“Today, just maybe,” he said, “they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way.”

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Here’s why Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his VP

Harris, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year, had been the front-runner to be Biden’s pick for months because, well, she simply made sense.

* She has experience in government — as both the California attorney general and as a US senator since 2017

* At 55 years old, she represents a younger generation of leader — something that Biden, who will be 78 on Inauguration Day 2021, said was a major factor in his choice

* She is a historic pick as the first Black and South Asian American woman to appear on a major party’s national ticket

* She’s from California, a massive treasure trove of both Democratic votes and Democratic donors

* She emerged as an outspoken voice on race — and the need for police reform — following the death of George Floyd in May and the subsequent protests it sparked around the country

There was no one else on Biden’s VP shortlist that checked so many boxes.

What’s telling is that Biden — and his team — didn’t feel the need to reach for a less predictable pick. They knew that while picking Harris would draw considerable attention, it would also be the thing most people expected them to do. Despite the historic nature of putting Harris on the ticket, Biden and his advisers knew that selecting Harris might be described by some as unsurprising.

But one man’s “unsurprising” is another man’s “safe.” And that’s exactly what Harris is — and what Biden believes he needs.

See, if you are Joe Biden, making your third run for president and ahead in virtually every swing state and nationally over President Donald Trump, every day between now and November 3 you want to do nothing that threatens to change the underlying dynamics of the race. And those underlying dynamics are that this election is a referendum on Trump’s first term in office and, more specifically, the deeply haphazard and erratic way in which he has handled the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Under that theory of the case, Biden needs to spend most of his time convincing voters that Trump deserves to be fired and a (relatively) small amount of time making sure they believe he could do the job in the incumbent’s place.

What that all means is that Biden wants the race to be about him as little as possible. He doesn’t want to turn this into 2016 all over again, in which Hillary Clinton was forced by Trump to play defense over her time (and emails) at the State Department. He doesn’t want the race to turn into a war of words or a battle to see who can sink lower in terms of personal attacks.

And so, in making the most important decision of his campaign, Biden abided by that approach. He wanted to, above all, do no harm.

Picking former US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who saw her fortunes soar in the finals days of the veepstakes, undoubtedly appealed to Biden, since he had the closest personal relationship with her and believed she could help him heal the wounds, internationally, that Trump has created. But Rice’s ties to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya — not to mention her presence in a January 20, 2017, meeting on Michael Flynn — created clear attack lines for Trump’s campaign to turn the spotlight from his flailing bid to Biden and Rice.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was, without question, one of Biden’s most trusted, effective and loyal surrogates throughout the 2020 race. She was with him when no one thought he could come back from dismal finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. But with her time as mayor of Atlanta being her highest level of experience in elected office, Biden would open himself up to questions about whether she would be ready to take on the top job at a moment’s notice.

California Rep. Karen Bass’ time as speaker of the State Assembly in California and her ability to appeal to Democrats of all ideological stripes made her an attractive choice. But past comments about Fidel Castro and Scientology — and Bass’ shaky responses when pushed on those comments — suggested that she might not be ready for the full glare of the national spotlight.

Harris, by contrast, had no obvious weakness that the Trump campaign would exploit.

Yes, it would note — as it did shortly after the pick was announced! — that she had slammed Biden’s stance on segregated busing in a June 2019 presidential debate. (“Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.) But it’s hard to see that attack doing much damage, given that Biden made history by picking Harris.

Is the he’s-a-secret-racist message really going to resonate given not only that but also a series of examples of Trump weaponizing White animosity toward minorities during his time in office? No way. And, while her prosecutor past in California might rankle some liberals who believed she was too aggressive in policing, it’s equally hard to imagine that liberals — faced with the prospect of four more years of Trump — would abandon Biden because of it.

What Biden did is make the pick that maximized his chances of continuing to make the race a straight referendum on Trump while also selecting someone, in Harris, whose resume suggests will be ready to step in if and when Biden decides to step aside.

This is the VP choice of a confident candidate, and campaign, who believe they are winning. And who believe that, as long they execute the basics of the campaign between now and November 3, Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president on January 20, 2021.